Trailing the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal and faced with major goaltending issues, things are looking pretty bleak for the San Jose Sharks heading into Thursday night's Game 5 in San Jose.
San Jose has lost three in a row, including 5-0 on Tuesday night, while being outscored 16-6, and starting goaltender Martin Jones hasn't made it to the second period in two of the losses after being pulled following shaky starts. So what gives the Sharks hope they can rebound to win the series?
"We're still playing," said forward Logan Couture. "We've got a chance. It's never over till it's over. We go home to where we've been good all year ... try to win a game, and that's that."
The Golden Knights agree.
"We need to forget about this win," said forward Max Pacioretty after scoring two goals and two assists in Tuesday's win. "We are going into the next game knowing that from the start, they are going to give it their all, so we need to be ready for that, and we need to match their intensity next game."
"Doesn't matter what happened 1/8Tuesday 3/8," added forward Alex Tuch. "It's a clean slate. Everyone's going to come out, it's going to be physical, it's going to be gritty. We've got to grind it out."
San Jose went 25-11-5 at SAP Center during the regular season and split the first two games there, including an impressive 5-2 victory in Game 1.
"For us, it's take care of home ice right now in that first game," said Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. "Win a game. We know we can win one game (in Las Vegas). We believe that as a group.
"But we've got to win our next game, and I think it sets up for us when we win at home. We get a little rest with the two-day break (Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Las Vegas), then come back here and dig in and gut out a win here and come back. So, I think there is a formula for us, but it's get that first one."
To do that, the Sharks also will need much better goaltending from Jones, who will start again on Thursday night despite being pulled at the end of the first period on Tuesday after allowing two goals on just seven shots.
Vegas, which defeated the Sharks 4-2 in last year's Western Conference semifinals, and San Jose have played 10 games in the playoffs the last two seasons, with Marc-Andre Fleury and Jones starting all 10 of them. Fleury, who had 28 saves in Tuesday night's win to move into a tie with Chris Osgood for fourth place all-time with 15 career playoff shutouts, has registered three shutouts against the Sharks in that span compared to one for Jones. Jones, meanwhile, has been pulled four times.
"He has to be better; he's got to be better," San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after Tuesday night's loss. "We wouldn't have won tonight anyways because we didn't score a goal. We've got to find a way to score, and we've got to get some good goaltending, too. That's their formula. That's what's working for them."
San Jose should get a boost with the return of center Joe Thornton from a one-game suspension for delivering a blow to the head of Tomas Nosek. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, sidelined since taking a high shot from Shea Theodore in Game 2, returned to practice on Wednesday and is "a possibility" to play Thursday, according to DeBoer.
--Field Level Media
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